Cruise autonomous taxis are not having a great month, are they?
Just one day after self-driving company Cruise obtained permission to offer faired rides, disaster struck when one of its autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs was involved in a June 3 crash that caused multiple injuries. The accident took place at an intersection in San Francisco, where the self-driving Chevy made a left turn in front of an inbound Toyota Prius.
This is according to Automotive News, which has seen a report filed by Cruise with the California DMV. The incident has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conduct an investigation. According to Cruise, the autonomous Bolt came to a standstill at the intersection and did not complete its planned left-turn maneuver.
The company has also said the Prius driver was traveling over the posted speed limit and proceeded into the intersection from a right-turn lane. Of course, this is just one side of the story and the investigation will certainly provide more insight into the matter.
Until then, it's difficult to assess what has happened. Phil Koopman, an authority on self-driving vehicle safety, told the news outlet that an investigation will clear up a lot of unknowns. "We don't know if the Prius driver intended to turn right, but then swerved to try and avoid the crash with the stationary vehicle, for example." We should point out that the NHTSA investigation doesn't involve a recall or defect inquiry.
While Cruise has said the Bolt was in autonomous mode at the time of impact, the GM-owned technology company declined to provide more information pertaining to the crash. This isn't the first time autonomous ride-hailing vehicles have been involved in an accident. A self-driving Volvo XC90 made headlines in 2019 when the SUV collided with a pedestrian, who later died from her injuries.
An investigation into the tragic crash found the autonomous vehicle had sensed an obstruction in the road but failed to come to a stop. The safety driver was later charged with negligent homicide.
This crash follows another bizarre event to plague the self-driving company. Just last week, six autonomous Bolt vehicles came to a standstill at another San Francisco intersection. Thankfully, this debacle occurred in the early hours of the morning, minimizing delays and traffic. A witness reported that the vehicles remained stuck and had to be coaxed out of the roadway by Cruise representatives.
Many are of the belief that the technology behind autonomous vehicles simply isn't there yet. Incidents such as this only strengthen that argument, but not even detractors will stop the industry from forging ahead with self-driving tech. Mercedes-Benz has released Level 3 autonomous driving in Germany and plans to trial the system in the US very soon.
While the NHTSA is yet to provide a verdict, Koopman describes the incident as "very concerning." With this crash, in particular, there are a number of very concerning things upon a plain reading of the crash report. The onus should be on Cruise to prove they're still safe to operate."